“What is the value proposition for IT in your organization?”
IT can be just a service organization, providing a commodity service (and be outsourced to a cheaper provider), or they can identify where to add value to an organization, to the business, and to business leadership.
Hallmark does not sell greeting cards – you can buy the same card cheaper at the grocery store – Hallmark sells empathy, and customer intimacy.
Exemplary restaurants do not sell food, they sell service. You can buy food anyplace.
Apple is NOT a computer or technology company, but sells instead, a compelling user experience.
It may not be intuitive, what one’s value proposition actually is. In each case, the distinction between just someone in each of their industries, and being superlative, is understanding that regardless of the currency of trade (technology, in Apple’s case), the value proposition itself is what distinguishes your organization, your company, your success from everyone else.
IT Organization Leadership
Leadership is not something that is done by the tired cliche of leading by example, but in creating a compelling vision, unique value, and the ability to enable others to succeed, that gets you to the top. You rise not on the backs of others, but carried on their shoulders in triumph. What can you do to make your business counterparts into heroes? It is not about making IT look good, but in making the business players be everything possible with your help.
What Can You Do as an IT Leader to Move to the Next Level?
- Get IT people invited to staff meetings in every organization.
- Create a liaison/business partners group with technical people that can understand business.
- Meet the business leaders daily – find out what they need;
- share the unique insights as to what IT capabilities can provide;
- work out if it makes financial sense, balancing the risk/reward tradeoffs.
And Mr. CIO, take down that wall. If you want to be part of business then join the business. Change the dialog. A CIO should be 80% outside of IT; the 80% inside is your VP/IT’s function.
You think disaster recovery is an IT function? You weren’t listening. 80% of business continuity and disaster recovery don’t even have an IT component. Be the leader, and bring the WHOLE plan into play, not just getting your data back.
You think system reliability is measured in 3-4-5 nines? The business could give a rat’s behind. They care about 2 things; tolerance for planned downtime measured in window of opportunity and duration, and tolerance for unplanned downtime measured in duration and time to recovery. The latter provide a completely different engineered result, with far different costs that some arbitrary statistical number.
Learn to speak in those (and other) business terms, and business will be your partner, not your customer.
Conclusion and Summary on Building a Business Centered IT Organization
IT today, typically covers half of what the functional role of the organization should be – the half that all IT organizations are comfortable with striving to deliver.
The other half is business intimacy – moving from the back end of business requirements to the front end, and moving to a business partner, who works hand in hand on solving identified needs, up to business peer, collaboratively identifying new needs and how IT can expand business success, and maybe even to business leader, where business capabilities encompass how technology can best enable future business strategy. The transition is from reactive services organization, to improved business interactions, to trusted adviser, to proactive definition of future state business vision.
If your organization is in a functional delivery role then your CIO is functionally equivalent to a VP of IT, with an inflated title. If your organization is integrating with the business then your CIO is on the path to C Suite success and peer respect. Welcome to a small, but highly successful group.
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